May, 2017 - Pastor Bubba Justice's Resignation
On May 21, at the end of Sunday service, Senior Pastor Bubba Justice gave his official resignation notice to the congregation. Following is his letter to the church which includes a short term plan for continuity in Inverness Vineyard Church's organizational and spiritual leadership, until a new pastor has been hired.
Dear Elders and Members of Inverness Vineyard Church,
It is with both sorrow and joy that I officially announce my resignation as Senior Pastor of Inverness Vineyard Church (IVC). The resignation will be effective June 30, 2017, with June 25 being my last Sunday to preach as Senior Pastor. The church is planning a celebration of our 23 years of ministry the weekend of August 18 to August 20.
On July 18, 2016, the Holy Spirit began to impress upon me to accept an offer of Phil Strout to become the National Coordinator of Vineyard USA (VUSA). Until that day, I had no intention of ceasing to be the senior pastor of IVC which I helped plant in 1994. Through a series of encounters with God, counsel with elders, consultation with family and mentors, and times of prayer I made the decision to say yes to God’s invitation.
During August of 2016, I met with the elders of IVC and our Regional Leader Jon Sterns to discuss a transition. In September, the VUSA Executive Team approved of my hiring as the National Coordinator. I made an announcement to IVC at the end of September. In November, IVC engaged Bob Logan to help us walk through the transition and search for a new pastor.
Bob Logan has coached us through this transition. As we began this process, my intention was to remain as senior pastor until we found the person God has called to be the next pastor. In November, when IVC budgeted for 2017, we estimated that if everything went perfectly we could have a new pastor by July 1. When we worked out a “Best Case” search plan with Bob Logan, we hoped to have a new pastor by July 1. Both the budgeting and the search team plan were estimates driven by the demands that VUSA would place on my time beginning July 1st. Both Bob Logan and the material we researched about pastoral transitions indicated that a more realistic time frame for finding a new pastor could take over a year.
As we approach July, VUSA needs me to work full-time. We have a national conference and various board meetings I’m involved with that require much attention. In addition, Phil Strout will be taking a three-month sabbatical from September 1 until November 30. I will be acting on Phil’s behalf while he is on sabbatical. As we have discussed VUSA’s time requirements for me, the elders and I determined that it would be best for both the church and me to resign even though we have not yet found a pastor.
An additional consideration is that many experts on church transitions recommend a period of time between the resignation of current pastor and when a new pastor starts.
The Search team has multiple qualified candidates that they are continuing to interview. They are committed to not recommending a person to be our next pastor unless there is a sense that God has said this is the one. We have received coaching from Bob Logan to not make decisions because we feel pressure. Our Regional Leader has counseled us to wait for the right person and not give in to a sense of urgency.
As a result, the elders have put together a short-term plan with help from both Bob Logan and our Regional Leader. We followed our by-laws. Steve Cole as Vice President will be responsible for all organizational functions until we find a new senior pastor. Barry Sturdivant, who has served as an interim pastor for about a year at another Vineyard, will serve as Interim Pastor leading the Sunday service and other spiritual matters. If the search team concludes that our next pastor is not among the current candidates, the elders will decide later this summer about a long-term plan. Both a preaching schedule and church activities have been fully planned through Labor Day.
VUSA has agreed to allow me to work from Birmingham as long as I can effectively do the job. Melany and I plan to remain active members of IVC as long as it is beneficial to the church and to the new pastor. We will serve in any capacity that the new pastor desires. We look forward to continuing to share our lives and ministry with you.
Pastor Bubba has been hired as the National Coordinator for Vineyard USA and will only be part-time for the first half of 2017 and then phasing out. IVC has hired Bob Logan as a church consultant to help us walk through this pastoral transition. On Sunday, Jan. 15th, Bob met with us (via online) and shared many of our church's strengths and some areas that could be improved. The Elders finalized a group of 12 people to serve on a Search Committee and they were announced and prayed over. They are in the process of being trained and then beginning the search. We look expectantly to what God is going to do in our church during this journey of faith.
Phil Strout, Vineyard USA Thank you.